In the streets of many Bulgarian cities, large protests demand the protection of Bulgaria's Strandzha Nature Park. In the web, thousands have signed a petition for the same purpose. Conservation organisations, such as WWF, are determined to save this unique natural treasure. Having joined forces under the coalition "For the Nature", conservationists call on the Bulgarian Parliament and Government to pass urgent legislative changes that will to save the country's largest protected area.
Recently, the Bulgarian Supreme Administrative Court approved the Master Plan of the Tsarevo Municipality, which allows for construction without a mandatory environmental assessment of large tourism resorts in Strandzha Nature Park, along over two thirds of the Black Sea coastline. This ruling sets a negative precedent for all protected areas in the country. In a hearing before the National Assembly, Regional Development Minister Desislava Terzieva, stated that she has launched a procedure for the partial amendment of the Tsarevo Master Plan. According to the news brief issued by the National Assembly, "[d]uring the hearings held in the parliament, the minister of regional development, Desislava Terzieva, informed the lawmakers that on January 30, 2014, she has started the procedure for partial amendments to the Master Plan of the Tsarevo Municipality, in the part concerning Strandzha Nature Park. The park covers 70 % of the municipality's territory. The step stops the implementation of the Master Plan and implies that all construction works contradicting the law could be canceled by the minister of investment planning or by the minister of environment and waters as far as protected territories are concerned. The amended Master Plan will afterwards go through ecological assessment and whether it complies with the legislation for the protection and the preservation of Strandzha park".
But it is not clear when the amended master plan will be ready. Until then the current plan is still in power. Meanwhile, Environment MinisterIskra Mihaylova ordered that no construction permits be issued within the boundaries of the Park. Her decision can be appealed in court.
Having worked for the conservation of Bulgaria's valuable protected areas for many years, WWF is campaigning for the cancellation of the development plans threatening Strandzha Nature Park. An online petition has thus far gathered more than 20,000 signatures. Addressing the Bulgarian Parliament, the European Parliament, the European Commission and the European Council, the petition calls for an immediate end to the plans, legislative changes and for full implementation of the EU's nature conservation legislation.
As clearly stated in the "Saving Resources" conference organised by WWF in Sofia on 25 June 2013, the only solution for truly sustainable development is the shift towards resource-efficient, green economies in the Danube region.
Sources: WWF, National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria.